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Dublin v Mayo: Flames of rivalry will rise higher for part two

All-Ireland SFC final

By Declan Bogue

A draw is the most rare of GAA animals, and as such, everyone is left in a sort of confused limbo at the final whistle.

Spectators are engulfed in a no man's land of anti-climax and managers are edgy and antsy; that was the case after Mayo and Dublin's draw in the All-Ireland final yesterday.

The Dublin players trooped out to their team bus wearing headphones the size of telephone boxes, and their body language cried out 'look, but don't talk'.

In hurling, we have become rather used to this scenario. But not 2000 has the football final concluded with a semi-colon and not a full stop.

Back then there wasn't a Hogan Stand, as we know it in Croke Park. There wasn't even a Cusack Stand.

The GAA was a much different place. Ireland was a whole other country.

The only player to stop for a chat was Mayo's Lee Keegan.

Erstwhile torturer of Tyrone ace Sean Cavanagh in the quarter-final, this time he resumed his war against Diarmuid Connolly.

He held him to a point too, and scoreless entirely until a bit of scrapping earned them both the rebuke of a yellow card on 62 minutes.

On their ongoing hostilities, which prompted a change of jersey for the Dublin attacker after his first one was inexplicably torn to shreds, Keegan deadpanned: "It was nothing.

"The two of us just want to do whatever we can to win a game. I wouldn't think too much about it."

Shortly afterwards, the adrenaline had to be pumping when Cillian O'Connor capped a marvellous comeback in injury time, adding Mayo's third consecutive point to seal a draw.

A penny for Keegan's thoughts while he was doing so brought the response: "Put the ball over the bar!

"That's why he's our leader, our captain. He is just coolness personified, and put it over the bar. At the end of it we were unsure what was going on with the kick-out afterwards, whether it was a free in or a free out and one of our lads had a bad show (substitute Evan Regan had to be removed from the pitch looking extremely groggy), but the leadership Cillian showed towards the end was just huge.

"If there was another few minutes who knows what might have happened because both teams were out on their feet. The game was what it was."

All that said and done, you could make the argument that Mayo were simply the better team here.

When they get around to looking through the game, they won't need much prompting to realise they held the most-vaunted attack in the game scoreless from play for the first half hour.

When they really needed points, they came from the leaders of the group.

After that, the Dubs only scored nine points. Is there ever a temptation, Keegan (right with Diarmuid Connolly) was asked, to feel it is simply not your day?

"No. You're probably hearing the same thing, but we just stick to our processes. There are going to be setbacks," he answered.

"When you're playing a team of the quality of Dublin there are going to be setbacks regardless of how well you're going. The goals were what they were, but we had a very good start to the first half and we held them scoreless points-wise for 20 minutes or so, that's a huge positive for us.

"The Dublin forward line is built up to be one of the best there is out there and I thought we did well as a unit, and in the second half we only conceded five points.

"The stats are pretty good on our behalf - it's not the result we wanted, but we really need to kick on in 13 days and we have to find that inch or foot or whatever it is to get across that line.

"A draw isn't good enough for this squad any more, it's about getting over the line.

"The two goals were probably a bit of a disaster but they are what they are.

"We kicked on then after half-time and put the foot down, but again Dublin got another purple patch.

"It just felt like sometimes maybe we weren't going to get back into it but the belief in the squad is just huge, so we are just delighted to get away with something."

Sources in the tunnel claimed there was a bust-up between both sets of players as they went out onto the pitch before the game.

The Dublin-Mayo rivalry is extremely combustible. Watch it all go up in flames on Saturday week.

Belfast Telegraph


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